Themes of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Stories
Nathaniel Hawthorne, born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804, was a descendent of a long line of Puritans. One of his ancestors, John Hathorne, was even a judge who presided over the Salem witch trials. Hawthorne carried much grief for the actions of his ancestors, and eventually changed his name by from Hathorne to Hawthorne so that he would have no connections with his Puritan ancestors. Through his writings, Hawthorne expresses his hatred for the nature of the Puritan community. In stories such as, “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and “The Maypole of Merry Mount,” Hawthorne expresses his dislike for the Puritans by portraying them as being an evil hypocritical group of people.
“Young Goodman Brown” begins with Goodman Brown leaving his wife Faith to go on a journey. Goodman Brown then journeys to a black mass, where he is united with members from his church including his pastor. This story is both symbolic of an innocent man leaving his “faith” for the evils of the world, but it also expresses Hawthorne’s idea that the members of the Puritan community are hypocrites. In the story the people were acting like good church going people during the day, but a night they were participating in black mass. During the Salem witch trials in the late sixteen hundreds, the Puritan community was acting the same way as the Puritan characters in “Young Goodman Brown.” They went to church every Sunday and acted like good Christian people; however, at the same time they were hanging, torturing, and imprisoning members of their community for suspicions of witchcraft.
Hawthorne’s meaning in his story “The Minister’s Black Veil” is more obvious than his meaning in “Young Goodman Brown.” In “The Minister’s Black Veil” a Puritan minister puts a black veil over his face to cover it from not only other people, but also himself. The minister never removes the veil from his face, not even for him to look at his own...